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WEAC: $300 Million in Cuts Will Sting

June 4, 2009

Madison, WI – If the Legislature approves the Joint Finance Committee budget, Wisconsin's public schools will experience a budget cut of about $300 million, while the expected $900 million in stimulus money for schools won't fully erase public school shortfalls.

But, Dan Burkhalter, executive director of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), who studied the proposed spending plan, says it could have been a lot worse.

"The $300 million that's in this proposal is roughly three percent of the budget. Imagine if it was three-times that, which would be the case if the $900 million had not been invested."

Burkhalter does see a positive product of the budget crisis, in that it is forcing a discussion about more-equitable ways to fund schools across the state.

"If there's any good news in this, it's that we might be able to further the debate about school funding reform, so that we're not in this position two years from now."

Burkhalter says the initial proposal called for a five-percent cut to the state's schools.

"It's better than it was initially, so we feel like it was going in the right direction to be somewhere between a total two-and-a-half and a three-percent cut."

Even with the federal cash, parents should expect fewer educational offerings in some cases, along with larger class sizes, according to WEAC. Steep budget reductions will also affect state employees, including layoffs and furloughs. The budget awaits full legislative approval and the governor's signature.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI